Ever since I first read Harriet the Spy in 1996 (right after seeing the movie), I’ve been obsessed with the idea of carrying a notebook with me and writing through my life. I tried the spy part for a while too, but it’s really the writing that stuck with me. I gave it a good effort, but it wasn’t until 2002 that I started keeping a regular journal and even that requires a loose definition of regular.
There’s always this tension between living your life and reflecting on your life so that you can write about it. There’s no doubt that my life has leaned more toward introspection than action, but I always think of 18th century English writers who I picture (however accurately) doing nothing but walking around ponds and writing and talking to the same people all the time. It’s a wonder they had anything to say.
I live a small life too, even if I lack the leisure time of English poets. Sometimes I do fight against the boundaries of my small life, but I unconsciously work to keep them in place and keep myself insulated from all the crazy going on out there. It’s strange to realize how much this works for me as a writer, because I very rarely lack words or ideas to put to paper.
More and more all the time, though, I feel the pull to experience new things, especially new places, and it’s a comfort to know that writing will be with me there too. It’s a part of my life, no matter what I do.
But of course, I have left out the most important thing about keeping a notebook with you always and writing at every opportunity. That’s that you’re a secret genius who the world will only appreciate when you’re gone. No, but I am inspired by Da Vinci-type notebooks, even if my own writing is sufficiently less mature and includes characters such as Adorable Boy instead of the Vitruvian Man. I’ll let people assume what they will.